Indigenous enrolments in health programs at Monash University reach new high

Cheyenne

More Indigenous students than ever are studying health programs at Monash University, with a 52 per cent boost in the total number of Indigenous students studying in the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences this year.

Overall, the University now has 70 per cent more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander undergraduate and postgraduate students than in 2008, rising from 102 to 173 enrolments in 2016.

At the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, thirty-two Indigenous students have enrolled in 2017, taking the total number to 67 - up from 44 in 2014.

Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Professor Christina Mitchell, said she was thrilled to see such strong progress.

“Fostering the growth of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical workforce is imperative in improving Indigenous health outcomes.

“It is fantastic that we have an opportunity to contribute by providing the highest quality education to an increasing number of future Indigenous doctors and allied health professionals,” Professor Mitchell said.

The Faculty has established a number of initiatives to drive increased participation opportunities for Indigenous students choosing a career in health. Accessed through Monash’s Indigenous health unit (Gukwonderuk), they include scholarships, bursaries and an enhanced study program.

The Vertically Enhanced Study Program Approach (VESPA) gives Indigenous health science and VCE students the opportunity to strengthen their study skills, learn from mentors, develop confidence and learn Koori medicine and healing practice.

Gukwonderuk Director, Associate Professor Karen Adams, said the increase was a great start, but a lot more needed to be done, with parity rates still low.

“To reach Victorian population parity in our courses, we need 130 Indigenous students, while to reach Australian population parity we would need 330 Indigenous student enrolments.”

First year Medicine student, Cheyenne Travis, said joining the VESPA program contributed to her success.

"I chose medicine because it gives me the opportunity to make an amazing difference in people's lives.

"Taking part in the VESPA program provided a fantastic way of practising clinical skills and linking it to Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander culture," she said.

Glenn

Monash Physiotherapy graduate Glenn Milliken has completed an internship with the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), and mentors other Indigenous University students across Victoria.

He said the support of Monash staff and the Indigenous health unit had a big impact.

“Monash University started me on my journey to where I am now, happily working as a Grade 1 Physiotherapist at St Vincent’s Hospital. I’m now gaining new skills and chasing my dreams to make them a reality.”

The Faculty’s initiatives form part of Monash University’s commitment to increase Indigenous student entry including through its Indigenous entry scheme which provides access to a range of Monash courses at reduced ATAR levels.